31 May 2010

An urgent appeal for the choir of Christ Church Cathedral

The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, rehearsing for Choral Evensong on Trinity Sunday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Once again I am the canon-in-residence in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. I was preaching at the Festal Eucharist in the Cathedral yesterday morning, and took part in Choral Evensong in the afternoon.

The setting for the Eucharist on Sunday morning was Haydn’s Missa Brevis S. Johannis de Deo, and the Communion Motet was Sir John Stainer’s I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne ... majestic choices for Trinity Sunday.

Afterwards, the Friends of Christ Church Cathedral had their annual lunch in the cathedral crypt.

At Choral Evensong, I read the second lesson (John 3: 1-17), and the choir sand the canticles Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis were from Herbery Howell’s Collegium Regale. Our closing hymn was one of my favourites: John Mason’s How shall I sing that majesty?, to Ken Naylor's tune Coe Fen, written while he was teaching in Cambridge.

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin ... this is one of my weeks as canon-in-residence (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

One of the joys of being a member of the chapter is sitting quietly in the stalls behind the choir, listening to one of the great cathedral choirs in these islands.

The choir was founded in 1480, so Christ Church Cathedral has been part of the musical and cultural life of Dublin for almost five and half centuries. The cathedral is one of the most important heritage sites in the city of Dublin and in Ireland, but depends totally on voluntary donations for its survival.

The long and glorious musical tradition at Christ Church is visibly and vocally represented at the daily round of services by excellent and committed choirs which have contributed so willingly over the years to the liturgical life of the cathedral.

However, this tradition has been challenged in recent times and the cathedral board has had to find a way to respond.

The Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, the Very Revd Dermot Dunne, points out that it costs €1.4 million each year to maintain the fabric and life of the cathedral. The main source of income comes from the visitors who pay an entrance fee at the door. “In better times the cathedral managed to balance its expenditure with the income received from the door and other sources,” he says. However: “Financial predictions for this year indicate that income from visitors will drop by 25%.”

A combination of volcanic ash clouds and the world-wide recession has had a negative impact on the number of visitors to the cathedral, resulting in a decrease of 25% in cathedral income. Because of this fall-off in visitor numbers and loss of income, the cathedral chapter and board have put in place many stringent spending cuts.

Over the last six months, the cathedral management and structures have been restructured and streamlined to make them more cost effective, while developing an outreach programme to the diocese and to the city. Despite these cuts, the cathedral faces an end-of-year deficit of around €200,000 to maintain even the minimum of its services.

The cathedral is planning to launch a major fundraising appeal this year to ensure the survival of the cathedral in these harsh economic times.

The significant cuts in the budget relating to the cathedral choir mean the cathedral has to reduce the choir to three services from the start of the new term in September. The cathedral has also honoured its commitments to all current choir members, reflecting their dedication and loyalty to Christ Church.

The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral takes a break after Choral Evensong on Trinity Sunday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Ensuring the continuity of the choir through to the end of 2010 has resulted in a financial shortfall of €30,000. To date, the cathedral has received donations of just over €8,000 towards maintaining the choir. But this still leaves a shortfall of €22,000.

The need to raise this shortfall while also developing a plan to secure the future of the choir is urgent. If you would like to make a donation to assist the choir, please click ‘Donate’ on the cathedral website at www.cccdub.ie or visit the cathedral’s Paypal page directly at: http://tinyurl.com/36kwlx6.

To specify that the payment is for the choir, please select: “Add special instructions to the seller” when you are reviewing your donation in the final page and type ‘Cathedral Choir’.

Alternatively, you can contact the managing director, Bernie Murphy, at bernie.murphy@cccdub.ie or on 00353 (0)1 677 8099.

This information is also available on the cathedral website at:

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